In the near future, genehacked meglodonts, large elephantine creatures, roam the streets of Bangkok while in the sky float giant dirigibles. Global trade is dead. The oil economy is dead, replaced by a calorie-based economy. Down in the dirty alleys and open markets, the people scrounge a meager existence, scraping up calories and living in fear of bio engineered plagues that still ravage the land.

“Somewhere in this city a generipper is busily toying with the building blocks of life. Reengineering long-extinct DNA to fit post-Contraction circumstances, to survive despite the assaults of blister rust, Nippon genehack weevil and cibiscosis.”

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Among them is Emiko, a windup girl– one of the bioengineered New People. Her movements like clockwork, her skin is like porcelain.  Once a prized possession, now she is an abandoned, a despised genetic abomination. Her fate is intertwined with a cast of characters as events threaten the precarious stability of the city.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

The Windup Girl dips into genetic engineering, bioengineered plagues and the near future. That alone would make it geeky, but add to the fact that it earned a well-deserved Hugo Award, and it definitely belongs on our geeky shelves.

It also has dirigibles. I feel that airships are  inherently geeky.

Rating (4 stars)

Bacigalupi’s vision of a future dystopia seems scarily plausible. The novel looks into our growing prowess in genetic engineering and asks what will replace a world that runs on the shrinking resource of oil. Not only is the story compelling and unusual, it draws attention the excessive waste of today’s society and warns us not to take earth’s bounty for granted.

However, the story follows a large cast of characters and the shifting perspectives made it difficult to follow at times. I feel like the novel would fulfill its potential on the second read.